"So you're sure that you're organised?" Pepper asked frantically, not for the first time that morning, as she ran around her room packing her bags to leave for the hotel. Tony was lying back on their bed watching the wide LCD television, an amused smile over his face.
"Pepper, I have told you over a hundred times already. Yes, everything is organised. No, we won't mess up the house and Yes, Rhodey is going to keep me in line" He said before pushing himself off the bed and taking the frantic red head into his arms, "Honey, you have to calm down. You're going give yourself a heart attack and that won't help anyone" He said gently. Pepper sighed, her whole body relaxing against him.
"I know...I can't help it" She stressed, "In case you hadn't noticed i'm very used to being in complete control!" She said with a small smile making Tony laugh.
"Well I think you can let someone else be in control for just a few days. Who knows, you may even like it?" He said raising his eyebrow. "The wedding planner has everything under control. The flowers are arriving by cold van tomorrow at 8am, Our suits are all in my walk in closet and are pressed and I already called the Four Seasons and confirmed your rooms as well as booked you and all your others girls in for a long torturous session at their Spa"
Pepper grinned at him and felt like she might cry from relief. Never in her life had she ever heard of Tony Stark personally calling to confirm anything other than her engagement ring. Eventually they came to the compromise of having a small ceremony at their home but having a huge party at the Four Seasons. It meant that Pepper could have the people she really wanted there for the 'I do's' but that the board members and other socialites (Who were only really invited because it was expected) wouldn't go sour at being snubbed. She was about to speak but he held his hand up.
"AND I also confirmed everything for the reception too. Everything is under control" Pepper once again leaned her head on his shoulder.
"Yay" She said quietly. Tony laughed and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
"You're very welcome now come on, Happy is outside with the Bentley and I refuse to let him wait around any longer since having you around will really put a kink in my plans to have Miss June and November round" he said, spinning her around with one hand and picking up her case with the other, walking her out of the door.
An hour later and Pepper had never felt more relaxed in her life as she sat in the delicately scented steam room, her head tipped back and eyes closed. Emma and Linda were sitting either side of her in much the same position.
"So...are you nervous?" Emma asked. Pepper opened her eyes and looked over to her sister who still had her own eyes closed. She closed them again.
"You know, I'm not. We're practically married anyway so I suppose this just finally seals the deal" She shrugged but then grinned, "But I am excited about finally getting married. You know, putting on the dress and having the big party" Emma giggled.
"Say...is...James seeing anyone at the moment?" She asked sheepishly. Pepper grinned.
"No...Why ever would you ask?" She said innocently. Emma would have blushed if the steam in the room hadn't already flushed her entire body.
"He's cute! and such a nice guy!" She said. Pepper nodded.
"Yeah, Rhodey's the best. I've known him a long time"
"Well if you ask me..." Linda began to say. Pepper scowled, her eyes opening to face her mother.
"You know what, Mother, nobody asked you and technically i'm still very very mad at you" She snapped, "You're lucky you're even still coming to the wedding but it would mess up the seating chart and poor Jennifer has enough on her plate to deal with without me calling her the day before the wedding and telling her to totally rearrange the head table!"
Pepper fought for breath as she finished her rant, which was hard in a room with 90 percent humidity. Emma patted her sister on the shoulder.
"Okay, Pep...just breath. Calm. This is you're time! It's all about you!" She said, making Pepper smile but Linda didn't want to let it lie.
"Virginia, I was only trying to help..."
"Well DON'T! Mom, I understand it was a horrible things to witness, believe me, it wasn't exactly fun for me either but I'm fine now. In fact I am better than fine so you don't have to try and take my life in your own hands anymore...and you haven't for a very long time" She said quietly.
"I just think he had a right..."
"Mother, saying that over and over is not justification alright? You just don't get it! Tony, as much as I love him, borders on megalomania. He won't take it lying down. Now he's told me that he didn't do anything, I don't believe him but I'm not going to push the issue" She sighed.
"Easy Pepper, breath!" Emma said, putting a hand on her sisters shoulder, "Come on, it's your wedding! It's all about you so lets go ice up and get something to eat. And you." Emma turned to her mother, "Stop trying to control everything, God you two are so a like at times!"
After a full day of pampering, waxing and facials, Pepper finally felt ready to get married. It wasn't that she wasn't ready for the actual deed she wasn't ready for, it was the horrible feeling that she didn't feel pretty enough. Of course, she'd never tell Tony that. He'd think it was the most stupid thing he'd ever heard. She just didn't feel like she could pull off the pretty white dress and the diamonds but it was amazing what some therapy could do.
But she still wouldn't turn down Pizza.
Linda had turned in early for the night leaving Pepper and Emma sitting together on Pepper's bed, a large stuffed crust pizza sitting between them. They didn't feel the need to speak, the movie that was on keeping them both totally involved. It was what Pepper needed, something to clear her head. Suddenly, her phone began to ring and she grinned, knowing exactly who it was from the personalised ring tone.
"Hey, I thought you'd be out with the guys tonight?" Pepper said. She heard a sigh on the other end of the phone which put her immediately on edge.
"yeah...No we hung out this afternoon but I figured you'd want me sober tomorrow" He said lightly.
"Well yes, that would be a good idea" She heard him sigh again, "Is everything okay?"
"I got a problem..."
"What problem? What is it?" She felt panic mixed with bile rise in her throat. Was he going to call off the wedding? Suddenly decide that he really didn't want to get married and he really wanted to go back to screwing every woman he could get his hands on?. Her head started to throb and she wondered how on earth someone could cause so much panic with only four little words.
"My hair won't sit right..." He muttered. Pepper almost choked from laughing so hard, Emma almost jumping out of her skin from the sudden noise.
"Tony, for as long as I've known you...you've never had a bad hair day in your life" She giggled, making gestures to Emma with her hair in a crude attempt to explain what was going on.
"Well...I do today and I'm worried it'll be like this tomorrow. The one day I need my hair to sit right...not that I don't always need my hair to sit right, its part of my boyish charm..."
"Sweetie, you're babbling. Come on, whats really wrong?" She asked gently. There was a shuffling on the line as Tony threw himself down on their bed.
"I guess I just wanted to hear your voice" He said quietly, "It's weird not having you around"
"I miss you too, but relax...pretty soon you won't be able to get rid of me!" she laughed and he grinned.
"I know, it's late. I'm gonna let you turn in while I play with my hair a little bit more" He said playfully before his tone became serious, "I love you"
"I love you too" She said softly, ignoring Emma's twisted face out of the corner of her eye, "And maybe you should try using Wax instead of Gel?"
He hadn't slept more than 3 hours the whole night, his head was too full of completely ridiculous questions. Would his hair sit okay? What if Rhodey for some reason forgot or lost the rings? What if Pepper had second thoughts? What if? What if? What if? All of them giving him nothing more that a sore head and getting him no closer to sleep. He wondered if Pepper was doing the same thing.
Pepper also lay awake thinking the same questions, including thinking about her hair. It was only when the sun started to stream through her window did she realise that today was the day. She was getting married. With a burst of energy and an ecstatic smile she jumped out of her bed and ran through the door to the adjoining room that belonged to her (Still sleeping) sister.
"I'M GETTING MARRIED!" Pepper screamed, running towards the bed and jumping up and down on it. Emma pulled her pillow over her head, groaning as she was bounced up and down on the mattress.
"Pep...please stop...it's too early!" She groaned, Pepper falling down next to her.
"Look, this is the first time I've been able to totally let go...in forever! Let me have this!" Pepper exclaimed, "Now come on up! We need to get breakfast and then its to hair and make-up so I can get married!" She shouted, getting up and bouncing on the bed. Linda smiled as she walked into the room, happy for her daughter to have the big grin plastered over her face.
"Mom! Make Pepper stop!" Emma wailed. Linda shrugged.
"Oh no, my days of getting involved are over! Let your sister enjoy her big day!" She said, watching Pepper jump up and down on the bed, her bed hair flying everywhere. Emma groaned again, it was far too early to have your sister jumping on your bed without coffee in your system.
Rhodes rolled his eyes as he opened Tony's bedroom door. It was 6am and Tony was still fast asleep in bed, despite the fact that Jarvis had raised the shades and sun light was pouring into the room. Sticking out from under the white duvet was a tuft of black hair.
"Tony...hey Tony, come on man..." Rhodes said as he walked over and tried to shake the other man awake. Suddenly the covers were thrown off making Rhodes stumble backwards in shock, Tony's loud voice cutting through the quite.
"I'M GETTING MARRIED!" He shouted, jumping up out of his bed and bouncing off the mattress. Rhodes stood blinking at him for a moment before shaking his head and laughing at his friend.
"Damn you almost gave me a heart attack!" he said laughing, "I never thought I'd see the day you'd be excited about getting married" Tony grinned and shrugged.
"Yeah but thats cause I never thought i'd be marrying Pepper"
"I did, She's the only woman that'll put up with you" Rhodey quipped earning him a light punch on the shoulder. "Jennifer is ready to start bringing in the set up before the flowers arrive so all you need to do right now is calm down and get a shower" He laughed as Tony practically skipped off to his bathroom. He didn't think he'd ever seen Tony as happy as he was today.
As time went on the house began to fill with people. People first setting up the arch in the garden where the ceremony was going to take place, then people with flowers to fill said already blooming garden with even more colour (White, as Pepper requested and absolutely NO carnations) and then finally relatives and close friends of both the bride and the groom. Tony didn't really keep in contact with many members of his family, a couple of cousins, a few aunts and uncles. Some of his cousins were bitter about not being involved with the company and didn't want to know unless there was something for them to gain from it. They weren't worth his time. The only thing that mattered today was he was marrying Pepper, the woman who loved him through thick and thin, through every scratch and bruise.
He almost took a step back when he was bombarded with compliments and congratulations as he slid down the stairs in his suit along with Rhodes. James was already down the stairs and mingling with everyone, helping the people mix together. It was daunting. Tony hadn't been in a room with this many family members in a long time and the image of Pepper in her white dress was the only thing stopping him from turning tail and hiding in his room until they had all left. Suddenly he was sent a saving grace in the form of his wedding planner, Jennifer's face, smiling in front of him and pulling him off to one side.
"You all set Mr Stark? Not going to run off an hide are we?" She asked. He shook his head.
"Not at all" he said, trying to sound as confident as possible which would have been easier had his voice not been shaking.
"Well good because I'm going to need you and your grooms men at the alter in 5 minutes time" She said smiling at him. He felt a jolt inside his gut and nodded sharply, taking in a deep breath through his nose to calm the butterflies in his stomach. The sound of the Bentley pulling up outside didn't help in the slightest.
"Right, just let me check my hair..."
It felt strange to have so many people around her all at once. There was someone behind her finishing the half up do on her hair, making sure that the diamond hair slide sat just right and that the light waves cascaded down without being tangled. There was someone in front of her fussing with her make-up, occasionally telling her to keep still (Which was hard when someone was pulling at your hair) and there was someone around her, just generally fixing the dress in all the right places, making sure there were no snags and no pulls where they shouldn't be.
For once though, Pepper was enjoying the fuss. She was enjoying what it was leading up to. The vows, the ring on her finger and the kiss at the alter, not to mention the massive party but all of that was nothing in comparison to the feeling of calling herself Mrs Stark. The name a thousand and one women all wanted. She felt like she was dreaming as she looked at herself in the full length mirror. Her dress was simple, strapless and floor length with a corset like bodice which accented her best features.
"Wow, you scrub up well sis" Emma said standing behind her and looking in the mirror. Her hair had been put up completely with the same style of diamond hair slide and her dress was a simple fitted strapless in a dark teal green, with her eye make-up matching. Pepper grinned as she picked up her bouquet of white Lillie's.
"You don't look half bad yourself" She said lightly, as her mother walked in the door wearing a silk dress that was close to the same teal colour of Emma's but it came to just below the knee and had a sweetheart neckline with the straps thicker at the top and thinning as they met the chest. She was holding her obnoxious hat in her hands.
"Look at you, Virginia. You look stunning" She said quietly, "Both of you do" She took in a sharp breath and held both her daughters hands in her own. "I want you to know that I'm so very proud of both of you, I couldn't have asked for two better daughters" Pepper began to wave her hand in front of her face in a vain attempt to not burst into tears.
"Mom, don't you'll make me cry!" she sniffed, "And you look great!"
"I'm glad you think so because the car is outside waiting for you" She smiled, "Come on, lets get you married!"
Her hands were shaking as she pulled up to the front of the house, the car immediately surrounded by the press, the flashbulbs practically blinding Pepper but she smiled gracefully as she got out of the car never the less as if they weren't even there. She walked into the house and met her father in the front room. He was beaming at her.
"You look beautiful sweetheart" He said giving her a kiss on the cheek and hugging her gently. She grinned at him.
"So...is everything ready?" She asked, "He's not chained to the alter so he can't run is he? James laughed.
"No no, he's there. I got Jim holding him down" He chuckled, "Everyone is sitting out there. Just waiting for you. Ready?"
Pepper nodded. She'd always been ready.
The garden wasn't exactly massive (One of the tiny trade offs for having a house on the edge of a cliff) but it was the perfect size for a small wedding. Just in front of a small fountain, an arch that had white flowers winding round it was in place where the priest, Tony and Rhodes was standing. The aisle was only defined by the space between the rows of chairs laid out on either side. The whole garden was bright with colour and life while smelling sweet and fragrant. It was exactly as Pepper had imagined it.
Tony felt his breath catch in his throat as Linda walked down the aisle to sit herself down at the front, she winked at him and he smiled. Suddenly the sting quartet started and slowly Emma began to walk down towards them, a huge grin on her face and a blush rising when she realised that Rhodes was smiling at her. Then there she was, Pepper was coming towards him holding onto her fathers arm, a bashful grin on his face. He knew she wasn't always great with being the centre of attention and as the bride, the focus was pretty much all on her. They stopped and James gave her a teary kiss on the cheek before Pepper reached out and grabbed Tony's hand. The priest smiled and began.
"True marriage is more than joining the bonds of marriage of two persons. In its right relation, it's the uniting of two souls already attuned to each other. When such a true bond already exists between man and woman, it is fitting that an outer acknowledgment be made. This acknowledgment is the prime object of this gathering and this ceremony. We are here to bear witness to the entry into the closer relationship of husband and wife of these beloved friends who are already one in spirit." He said, speaking softly but with strong conviction.
"If anyone knows any reason why these two should not be wed, speak now or forever hold your peace" Tony almost burst out laughing when Pepper screwed her eyes shut, certain that her mother or some random Blonde would come out of the blue. It would be just like her luck. When no-one shouted "NO! He the father of my child" or "He slept with me last night!" the priest continued.
"You are now taking into your care and keeping the happiness of the one person in all the world whom you love best. You are adding to your life not only the affection of each other, but also the companionship and blessing of a deep trust as well. You are agreeing to share strength, responsibilities, and to share love. Both the bride and groom have prepared their own vows" He smiled, nodding to Tony. He took in a deep shaky breath.
"I've done a lot of really stupid things. I wasn't someone that you could take home to meet your parents or even someone that you could take home. Period. But through all of it, you've been there for me to hold my hand. When I was taken, it was you that I thought of at night, when I got scared and when I was busting out because I knew it was you that I had to come home to. I promise that I'll always love you, protect you and be your night light until the day I die" she giggled as he blushed at the end, the fond memory of that night washing over her.
"Tony, I've always been proud of how professional I could be. It didn't matter what crazy thing you asked me to do or find, I always did it because that was my job but then as time went on it became more than a job, it was my life. You are my life and I never thought I'd be marrying my job. I don't expect you to suddenly have a halo because I wouldn't want you to change a thing. I promise to listen when you need to rant, to love you always and to never let you feel alone"
"Antony, will you have Virginia to be your lawful wedded wife? Will you love her, comfort her, keep her in sickness and in health and forsaking all others, be faithful to her so long as you both shall live?"
"Virginia, will you have Antony to be your lawful wedded husband? Will you love him, comfort him, keep him in sickness and in health and forsaking all others, be faithful to him so long as you both shall live?"
"I now pronounce you man and wife, you may kiss the bride"
He didn't have to tell Tony and Pepper twice as the two rushed towards each other, their lips crushing gently together in a gentle kiss as the string quartet started up again, confetti being thrown over the two as they pulled away and began to make their way up the aisle and towards the Bentley that was waiting to take them to the Four Seasons.
They both got into the car, sitting quietly beside each other in comfortable silence. It confused Happy, he expected manic kissing or at least giggling. Pepper looked at Tony from the side of her eye. Tony looked at Pepper from the side of his like they were sharing a secret joke.
"WE'RE MARRIED! AAAAHHHHH!!"
Then suddenly both of them turned to each other and erupted into screams and shouted laughter, causing Happy to jump out of his skin and almost swerve the car. They were like a couple of happy drunk teenagers who had just been named Prom king and queen.
The main ballroom of the Four Seasons was crammed with tables, all trimmed in dark blue clothes and white and silver place settings. The tables all surrounded a dance floor with a stage at the top end, set up for the band. The place was filled with people also, board members, stock owners, socialites and charity representatives were all at their places, standing up and applauding the bride and groom as they entered the room.
The speeches were short and sweet, just the way Tony and Pepper wanted them but with plenty of 'aw' moments that the guests all took in their stride. Their first dance reminded Pepper a lot of the night at the fire mans benefit and it didn't go unnoticed by Tony either as they spun around the floor to 'Iris' that was being sung live by the Goo Goo Dolls.
"Do you remember the first time we danced?" He whispered, holding her tightly against him. She grinned.
"Of course I do. I was in a ridiculous dress, you smelled faintly of Hugo boss and then you went to get me and drink and left me on the balcony"
"I did leave for a good reason"
"I know you did...but I never did get that drink"
"Well maybe I'll get you one tonight, I figure I do owe it to you" She smiled, her cheek against his as she could see Emma and Rhodes dancing from the corner of her eye. Both of them looked so completely happy together as the spun around the floor. James and Linda also joined the happy couples as everyone was invited to join the floor. There was a pause as the song finished and the Goo Goo Dolls left the stage, the couples all looking confused. All apart from Emma and Pepper who gave each other a knowing grin.
"Oh...I got you a little present by the way" Pepper whispered to Tony who looked completely bewildered. Suddenly a very familiar riff broke out from the darkened stage. Tony stared at Pepper in astonishment.
"You...you got ZZ Top to play our wedding?!" He shouted, practically jumping up and down. Pepper laughed and nodded.
"Sure did. I figured you'd prefer this to some random jazz band" She said as the couples began to dance to Sharp Dressed Man. He grabbed her and pulled her into a proper Hollywood kiss, pulling her over and bending her back gently. She was a little light headed when she was pulled back up.
"You are the best wife ever!" He said over the loud guitars as they danced. It was perfect, Pepper thought, finally married to the man that she'd been in love with way longer than she cared to admit to herself. She didn't want to admit how stupid she'd been. She felt warm against him, she fit comfortably in his arms and the feel of the skin on her bare back still gave him goose bumps. They were perfect.
The Trick is to Keep Breathing - Sneak Peak!!
He had always been proud of his looks. They had helped get him far in life, helped him get away with far too much than he'd care to admit. When they had found him his face had been barely recognisable. His nose was non-existant, his teeth were crushed within his mouth and his face was practically caved in. The many surgeries had been long and painful, but they had done it. He had a new face. It was strange that he didn't look like himself and he still had a nasty scar that ran down the left side of his face, but it would heal eventually to something a little less angry.
As he lay in the hospital bed, his fists closing around the news paper in his hand, he read the headlines to himself. There on the front page was a full photo of the woman that had done this to him and the man that she now called her husband. As gently as he could he tore the picture out, marveling at how beautiful she looked.
"Pepper Stark..." He muttered over and over to himself as the pain killers took over. He had a plan and he hoped Stark Industries were still employing.
Well that's it! Influenza is over and I'm so happy everyone enjoyed it! Yes, The Trick is to Keep Breathing is the name of the sequel and that was a little sneak peak into it. Over 200 reviews! OMFG!! Everyone keep your eyes open because the first chapter of the sequel will be up and running soon!!